Dacheng goes back to Red Square one

Why Dacheng’s Moscow link may not bring home the cabbage for the Chinese giant

Moscow is one of the most overcrowded legal markets in the world, with law firms from many countries all fighting for a chunk of Russia’s wealth. The dominant players since the fall of Communism have mainly been UK and US outfits, benefitting from the fact that English contractual law is the law of choice for international and even some domestic transactions in Russia.

The dominance of English law is even driving Russian firms to hire English-qualified lawyers in an attempt to compete.

But now there’s a new player in town. China’s Dacheng, a giant with 2,200 lawyers, has formed an association with mid-sized domestic firm Lidings. Dacheng wants to grow the nascent offering with local hires and build a Russian practice in Moscow.

Chinese companies are investing in Russia – Chinese companies are investing everywhere – and this is driving the development of Dacheng’s international network.

The key relationship partner on the Russian side is litigation head Andrey Zelenin. The two have previously collaborated for Chinese clients seeking to recover debt in Russia, but litigation is not a big focus for most international firms in Moscow due to lack of confidence in the local courts.

Instead, the most successful firms have built up strong M&A and capital markets teams. Lidings is a solid local firm but not a major player in these areas, so Dacheng may still struggle to compete with Anglo-Saxon firms to pick up the biggest pieces of work flowing between Russia and China.